As many of you probably have noticed in my 6 years as the Sports Editor of this newspaper, I'm not inclined to make this section about myself. Even when editorial space was plentiful, I'd rather write a longer game story or a more in-depth feature on a local athlete or coach than take up several inches of newsprint with my own thoughts and opinions.
But, as we turn the page to a new year and a new decade, I wanted to take just a bit of time to reflect on years past and look ahead to the future.
This past decade was especially important to me, as I began my sportswriting career in earnest in late 2009. As the newsroom's newbie, I remember having several conversations with some of the "old-timers" about how newspapers had changed during their careers. The transition to digital photography and design was especially interesting.
Dave Swartz, my editor at the Estherville Daily News (now the Estherville News after the publication shrank from five print editions a week to two) often talked about scrambling to find parent-volunteers to bring rolls of film back to northwest Iowa from state basketball and wrestling tournaments in Des Moines.
By the time I started at the paper, I just needed a computer, an internet connection and an email address to get a photo back to the office. Today, I can wirelessly send the photo from my camera to my cell phone, edit the photo and upload it to the internet without ever leaving the basketball court or the wrestling mat.
Times have certainly changed.
I had no formal training or previous experience when I took that first job. In fact, I had just two things going for me: I loved sports and I was fortunate enough to have an English teacher by the name of Steve Weisman. You may recognize that name. His column and headshot can be found on the OUTDOORS page of this very paper every week.
Well, Mr. Weisman once told me that I was a pretty good writer. He even suggested I write for the school paper. Of course, like the idiot I was, I declined — but thank goodness his endorsement stuck somewhere in the back of my numb skull.
I've thanked him in previous columns, but I'll do it at least once more. Thank you, Steve.
With my love of sports and Mr. Weisman's encouragement, I somehow fooled that first newspaper into giving me a shot. It was love at first type.
Then I fooled another newspaper and another, until I actually got good and the award-winning Dickinson County News decided to hire me.
For 125 years, the publications that merged to form the DCN have served this area's residents and businesses well.
In the past decade, under the leadership of Publisher Paula Buenger and Managing Editor Russ Mitchell, my extremely talented colleagues and I have worked hard to build this newspaper into one of the shining examples of excellent journalism in a state that could fill a grain silo with excellent journalists.
And we have the awards to prove it.
The Dickinson County News is one of just four newspapers in the state to receive 10 straight General Excellence designations from the Iowa Newspaper Association. I'm very proud of that fact, but even with hundreds of awards lining our walls and filling our desk drawers, we are not exempt from the plight facing publications throughout the nation.
WE NEED YOUR SUPPORT
As we head into this new decade, now, more than ever before, local papers are in desperate need of support from subscribers and advertisers alike.
Since the dawn of the internet, print subscriptions and advertising dollars have been in steady decline, and 1 in 5 newspapers have been forced to close their doors as a result, leaving vast swaths of this great nation with no reliable local news source whatsoever.
Near the turn of the previous century, many newspapers believed they could offset those losses by giving away online content for free and selling online ad space. After more than two decades, that experiment has proven to be a failure, especially for local newspapers. Not only has it proven to be a failure, but it actually exacerbated the downfall of newspapers by training the public to believe that all news should be free of charge.
Several folks in this area scoffed when we attempted to charge $3 for 3 months of digital access last year. Fortunately, they were in the minority. Many of you took us up on the offer and we have enjoyed seeing our subscription numbers tick upward. Thank you!
However, those online subscriptions — as much as they mean to us writers and designers — only go so far. What we really need is for local businesses to resume supporting the Dickinson County News the way this paper has supported this community, its citizens and its businesses, for more than a century.
This publication and its predecessors have been a pillar in the Lakes Area and have helped Dickinson County grow when most of the state's other 98 counties have declined.
When rock 'n' roll acts made the Roof Garden a stop on nationwide tours, we were there. When developers threatened to tear down Arnolds Park Amusement Park, we were there. Each time a local family is displaced by a tornado, a fire or a flood, we'll be there. When a local sports team wins a state championship, we'll be there. And whenever a community organization hosts a pancake feed or a harvest dinner, you can bet your bottom dollar our publication will lead the charge in getting people to your church and community center doors.
So, as we enter this new decade, I am asking you — our friends and neighbors — for your support, so that we might continue to provide the very best news and sports coverage in the Lakes Area for another century.